Early Years Toolbox Pilot Report

Pub. Date
29 May, 2020
Pub. Type

The Early Years Toolbox (EYT) is a set of iPad-based assessment tools suitable for use with young children by early years staff. It includes eight brief, engaging, and game-like assessment apps that aim to capture abilities that research has shown to be the most predictive of later academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and life outcomes. There is evidence that knowledge of children’s skills enables more effective instruction related to individual needs. However, in the early years much less is known about how formative assessment, and knowledge of child development and skills, influences practice and outcomes. In this pilot trial, Action for Children, supported by Professor Edward Melhuish from the University of Oxford, provided professional development (PD) to train early years staff to use three of the EYT apps: Expressive Vocabulary, Early Numeracy, and Child Self-Regulation and Behaviour Questionnaire. This pilot trial was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, with co-funding from the Department for Education as part of the EEF’s Early Years Professional Development Funding round.


The one-year pilot PD programme consisted of an initial training day in regional locations for two staff per nursery, and a two-hour follow up training session held within each nursery for all staff to attend. The nurseries committed to using the apps to assess children once every term and they received a bespoke support visit, timed for after each assessment point, which was tailored to their nurseries’ needs. The pilot programme also included an online forum for nursery staff to ask questions or share experiences, a digital pack of evidence-informed resources for language, numeracy, and self-regulation development taken from research literature, and a consolidation day at the end of the year for all nurseries to share best practice.


This report presents the results of the evaluation of the Early Years Toolbox pilot, conducted by NIESR in partnership with the Institute for Employment Studies.